By Paul Caputo

On international markets Salice Salentino is potentially Puglia’s most recognised wine. Taking its name from the small village in the heart of Salento, it was established as a DOC in 1976 and today incorporates the neighbouring villages of Veglie, Guagnano and parts of Campi Salentina, as well as San Pancrazio Salentino, Sandonaci and parts of Cellino San Marco which spill over in to province of Brindisi.

The area covers about 1800 hectares of vineyard, the majority of which is Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera cultivated on old Pugliese bush vines, many of which boast more than fifty years of age to them. Unfortunately many producers in the area choose to declassify their wines and label them as Salento IGP. This can be for any number of reasons - more flexible production rules on grapes or blending, disillusionment with the political aspects of Salice Salentino DOC or even just for marketing purposes.

Salice Salentino Rosso and Rosato wines require at least 75% Negroamaro, while the varietal expressions need a minimum of 85%. The rest is frequently made up with either Malvasia Nera di Brindisi or Lecce (proven to be the same grape). Many vineyards within the denomination are still planted with both varieties side by side. Historically, Malvasia Nera would add some colour and flesh to Negroamaro wines and with them both ripening at the same time the union made sense. It is fairly common for these varieties to be co-fermented.